When Oz Kafe reopened in 2017, it marked a reinvention of sorts for restaurateur Oz Balpinar. Moving from its beloved corner on Elgin Street, the restaurant’s reincarnation in the ByWard Market sees Balpinar building on her experience in a completely different location that aims to attract a different clientele.
Now executive chef Kristine Hartling leads in the kitchen. A chef who has earned a following with stints at other wellrespected restaurants, Hartling was given complete menu freedom. And so the dinner menu is short and European-focused, with an emphasis on locally sourced food. It is an old-fashioned appetizer and main course restaurant, which, in a world of small plates, can seem downright revolutionary. It also sets itself apart by being open very late — great news for people looking for an after-the-show (or shift) alternative to shawarma.
Notable entrées include the Nagano pork rib chop; indeed, it is among Hartling’s signature dishes. Juicy and flavourful from brining, it sits atop a sweet corn purée. No one will mind if you gnaw on the rib.
Traditional mushroom risotto is presented as an appetizer but is big enough to be a main, showing loyalty to the Italian classic and respect to local fungi.
The new location is a beautiful building that we hear might have been stables in the Bytown era. It is easy to imagine the sound of hooves on the cobblestones but harder to imagine that in those days, diners were lucky enough to enjoy such delicious food.